Decorative landscaping ponds bring an oasis of relaxation to home gardens.
Thursday, March 25, 1999
Few garden features can change the texture of a yard like a body of water. Perhaps it comes from our cells, yearning to top their 98 percent composition up to an even 100. It could be the wildlife that suddenly appears, the dragonflies, birds and butterflies. Whatever it is, foot for foot, dollar for dollar, a water feature is a value in cost, space and labor.
At a minimum, you''ll need something that holds water, and best to begin with at least 25 gallons to maintain a healthy water ecology. The pool may be buried or left to stand above the ground, preferably in partial shade. Remember that it will heat up more quickly if it is above the ground, generating larger water plants, more algae or both. A black plastic pot will heat up faster than, say, an old, footed porcelain bathtub.
Always keep in mind that there is no limit to the creative use of materials in the construction of water features. Clay pots, wine barrels, galvanized stock tanks; anything that even marginally holds water may be put to use. That said, there are also many flexible and rigid pond liners available. Rigid liners are handy because they are easy to install and usually have plant shelves at varying heights fabricated into the shell. Rubber or vinyl flexible liners are nice because you can mold them to any shape you design. They''re particularly useful when you want a small but deep pond.
The edging around the border may be the most important aesthetic component to the feature. The edging will give the pond its organic, natural sense. Consider boulders, flagstone, beach rock, or vertically set low posts when planning your pond, and think also about the types of creeping or cascading border vegetation that will grow around it.
Most of us associate ponds with the calming sounds of gently moving water. You''ll be surprised how much you can hear in a little trickle. To move water you''ll need a pump, a hose to carry the water from the pump, and an exit point from which to discharge the water. This exit point could be a fountain in mid-pond, a statue spilling the flow in its own fanciful way, or a fresh spring welling from the rocks. The goal is to aerate and circulate the water to promote gas exchange, the desire is to elicit serenity. A pump is not necessary for either function, but it makes them both easier to attain.
Sabatino Carnazzo of Carmel Valley Water Gardens grows over 90 varieties of water plants, as well as raising Koi and providing pond maintenance. He groups his plants into three types. The "bog" plants, such as water iris, water canna, papyrus, equisetum, water forget-me-nots, tulbaghia, rushes and sedges all like their feet wet but won''t tolerate going any deeper. The "submerged" plants, such as water lilies, water clover, lotus, and water snowflake all grow in plastic pots placed under the surface. The "floaters" like duckweed, water lettuce, hyacinth and parrot feather don''t require any soil, and drift across the surface.
"At the beginning it''s sort of a fish and no plants thing, or it''s a plants and no fish thing," counsels George Graeber of Graeber Gardens Nursery in Salinas, who is constructing several large demonstration ponds to showcase their work. He suggests that a few goldfish and mosquito fish can help to keep algae and pests down but the big Koi will nail the plants, and that can add up with some of the nicer submerged or floating plants. He recommends that people start with plants and move into fish slowly, and perhaps even protect the plants from the fish with a discrete, underwater screening.
No doubt you''ve spoken to those who have built their aqueous Eden, only to have their peace shattered by a goldfish massacre. The battle escalates well beyond tolerance and into netting, electric wire, all the way to motion detectors with lights and water guns to pummel the herons, raccoons, skunks, possums or alley cats that dare delve into fresh fish. The most effective deterrent to these marauders is a pond with steep sides and a bottom at least 24-36 inches deep to provide a safe haven for the little swimmers.
In the end, says Graeber, a pond is less work than a lawn. Admit it, you have plenty of chores to physically work out your anxiety. Don''t you need a pond to rest next to? H&G